CHAPTER FORTY-NINE

The sun set upon the sky, painting the horizon a soft mixture of orange and scarlet. Despite everything that had happened over the past few weeks, the world now rested within a delicate sense of peace and harmony. The evil New World Order no longer existed. Marco and his vicious band of mercenaries had been defeated. Despite their strengths, their strange mystical powers, and their overwhelming pride, they had not stood a chance against Blu. In the end, he had proven himself to be an honest, peace-loving, and compassionate creature, who would not bend to their cause and instead took a stand, refusing the dictatorship of the New World Order and its Emperor and branded himself as a hero. He became the sole reason for the return of peace, freedom, and love to the whole state and city of Rio de Janeiro.

Jewel carried Blu within the confinements of her wings. She couldn't fly like this, but she did not need to. She walked much slower than usual. Enjoying every step, she took and admiring the sense of harmony not known to her for years. Finally, everything was over with… she could now live a peaceful life with the love of her life, Blu, and their kids. She formed a pleasant smile and thought about the future, all the while being extra cautious with his newly reincarnated body. She could see that he still seemed to be in a lot of pain from his encounter with Marco, his wounds remained visible across his body. Despite his pain, however, Blu remained within a comatose state. The battle had been a huge strain upon his body, and she couldn't deny him that. She simply let her smile widen as she whispered in his ears just in case, he could still hear her.

"We're almost there, Pet." She said in a soothing whisper. "You have done so much for us… your friends, your family, everyone who has fled can now return home, and I know everyone you know will be so happy to see you again, even Linda. She's getting married. Did you know that?"

As if on cue, the cerulean macaw let a happy smile slip past his beak. He nodded his head, leaving Jewel puzzled and contemplating on whether he heard her or if she had fallen victim to a strange set of circumstances. With everything that happened, she couldn't put her eggs in either basket. Blu always seemed to surprise her. Time after time, her mind fell back onto one of many things that made her fall in love with him. There seemed to be so much hidden within Blu's subconscious that he appeared so mysterious, even for someone who appeared to be so simple-minded. She didn't know how much more he truly seemed capable of, but his intelligence and his abilities seemed too far outmatch any other bird on the planet.

"I don't know if I ever told you this, Pet." She frowned. "But you inspire me to be my best. You're the only bird to ever make me feel that way. You are really one of a kind, and how could I not love you for that?"

She shook her head and tightened her grip around her body. She kissed his cheek before continuing on her way into the heart of the city, where her daughter awaited their safe arrival to the Aviary. The city seemed unusually quiet. Very little activity seemed to happen in the human world. With everything set up for summer, a little time for rest and relaxation seemed to be in the cards. Jewel studied her environment a little uneasily. She still didn't trust most humans. Her eyes filled to the brim with fright as she wandered down the streets with her slumbering husband. She stopped dead in her tracks as she noticed a group of birds emerging from the subway system. They talked amongst themselves in hushed whispers. Jewel swallowed a lump in her throat, realizing that these were a patrol of foot soldiers who served under Marco's cruel command. Were they still under his spell? Her beak trembled as she tried to back away. She didn't want to fight them unless she needed to.

"Hey, bird. What are you doing here?"

Jewel jumped with fright and spun around, ready to defend herself if necessary. Her eyes hardened as she stared eye to eye with a large roseate spoonbill. His long white head and sharp-pointed bill glistened in the sunset. She jumped back a few inches and lowered Blu to the ground. She recognized this bird from the samba club. He had taken it upon himself to assist her and Blu in their escape from the marmosets. Her beak continued to tremble as he forced a sly smile. His long skinny talons reached out to grab her wing.

"You aren't going anywhere." He chuckled, his eyes filling with serious emotion that made Jewel rather uneasy. She struggled to free herself from his grip, realizing that he wasn't the same creature he once was.

"Let go of me!" Jewel snapped. "Don't make me claw your eyes out, Kipo!"

Kipo did as he was bidden and lowered his head. He let his beak form a twisted smile. "Relax, it was only a joke. How have you been, Jewel? Are you still hanging around with my friends?"

Jewel nodded her head, a little taken aback by the spoonbill's sudden change in attitude. He wrapped his wings around her and pulled her into a comforting hug. Jewel could feel her heart thumping as she tried to calm herself down. She could tell that this bird was no longer under the command of Marco. The spell had been broken upon his death, leaving every bird free to escape and rebuild their lives.

"I've been better," Jewel admitted. "Things have been pretty crazy around here lately."

The spoonbill nodded his heavy head. He couldn't help but let his sly smile deepen. He released Jewel and turned to the rest of his comrades. They all looked on in admiration towards his open display of emotion, but they all looked exhausted from their long ordeal. Guilty faces and deep embarrassment for their actions seemed to blanket their faces. Just like how Blu had been once she broke the spell upon him. Talons shuffled along the pavement as they recalled the counts of abuse that they had all gone through.

"Kipo," Jewel sighed. "Tell them it isn't their fault. Marco should be the only creature to blame. He paid for his crimes with his life. His days of causing evil throughout Brazil are over. He will never hurt anyone ever again."

Kipo nodded in understanding and bowed his head in respect towards the female macaw. "I will do that and if you see Rafael, Nico, or Pedro, tell them I say hi and to come and visit me. I haven't seen them in ages."

Jewel bent over and picked Blu up from off the ground. She studied him for a second before responding. "I will do that. It's always good to see you."


#


A little after sundown, Jewel carried Blu into the old structure of the Rio de Janeiro Aviary. She peered around the hallways and smiled, recalling all the good times she held within this one building. So many emotions ran through her mind as she remembered every single one. This was where she met Blu, laid her first three eggs, got engaged to Blu for the first time, found her sister still alive and well after so many years of believing her family had been dead, and many, many more. She wiped a tear from her eye and became lost in the memories. She failed to see Tulio creep up behind them. He picked up both macaws and rubbed his hand through the female's feathery crown. He soothed her and whispered in her ear.

"Welcome back, Jewel. I expected you to show up, eventually. Your daughter is here with the other macaw and the toucan. Both of them are in stable condition and should make a complete recovery soon."

Jewel cooed in a language that Tulio couldn't understand. He nodded his head and turned towards the treatment room. He smiled and proceeded down the hallway. His footsteps echoed down the empty dark hallway, which caused a little spark of fear forming within the macaw. She didn't really like human installations, especially at night. It reminded her of the smuggler's hideout back when she and Blu found themselves captured by them. She couldn't shake that ominous feeling of dread, even though she knew Tulio would never hurt her.

"Don't worry. I'm going to take you to them. You can have a little family reunion while I see what is wrong with your mate. We don't want him to be injured, now do we?"

Jewel squawked again, this time in a more cheerful manner. She couldn't wait to see her daughter again, especially now that her family truly was safe from any sort of danger.


#


Rose sat beside Rico, who rested his head against a bundle of soft burlap sacks. His chest bobbed in and out as the bird thief continued his struggle to remain breathing. He opened his eyes a crack every so often to study his surroundings, but he would always lose consciousness after a couple of minutes. Even though his wound had been stitched up thanks to a combined effort of Tulio and the rest of his medical staff, the true extent of his injuries remained unknown to everyone.

In the end, Dr. Monteiro ran more tests. Mostly as a safety precaution, but Rose knew better and could tell that the doctor wanted to get a better assessment so he could get a more accurate evaluation of the macaw's condition. In the meantime, he remained pumped full of painkillers through an I.V. in his wing to allow him some minimal comfort while he waited for some further treatment. The young female jumped with fright and came alert as she heard the door creaking open. She spun around and peered through the darkened room. The only light seemed to emanate from a small collection of monitors, an H.P.B. meter, and any other piece of machinery connected to the bird through the use of little sensors. She arched a suspicious eyebrow as she noted a tall, slim figure slumping through the darkness. He seemed to hold something in his hands. Rose dropped into a defensive stance, ready to fight if necessary. She heard stories about how her mom and dad were captured by smugglers during their first night in the breeding chamber. She refused to let herself share a similar fate. They wouldn't get her without a fight.

The dark figure towered over her. In that instant, her courage deserted her. She felt like a helpless child. She closed her eyes tight and trembled. She could hear him breathing as he studied her. She could feel a large finger brush through her feather crown. She opened her eyes and peered upwards, shocked to see Tulio standing over her. He formed a confident smile and lowered Jewel down onto the countertop. He chuckled to himself, repositioning his glasses, which hung loose upon the end of his nose. His voice rang out in a reassuring voice, which caused Rose's fear to diminish.

"Relax, my friend. There's no need to be afraid. He's doing so well."

Tulio turned to the monitor, studying it for a couple of minutes. Rose followed his gaze and noted the flickering lines on the H.P.B meter. She also noted Tulio's expression as he nodded and wrote his findings down on a piece of paper. Before long, he turned back to face the two females.

"His pulse is strong, so is his heart, but his breathing is a little sporadic. It's nothing to be alarmed about, though. If I had to guess, I would say that he is still suffering from a state of shock. By tomorrow morning, he should be back to his normal self again."

Rose let out a sigh of relief and turned to face Rico. She placed a wing upon his and tried to hold it to the best of her ability. She couldn't remove the smile from off her face. She wanted to jump with excitement but feared that she would have the machinery miscalculate the readings. She rubbed her beak against the bird thief's cheek and nudged his head over to the opposite side, hoping that it would awaken him.

"Did you hear that, Rico? The doctor says you're going to be just fine. Isn't that great news? I knew Marco wouldn't be able to take your life, I just knew it. Just hang in there a while longer."

Tulio listened to Rose's squawks and tried to decipher them the best he could. He nodded his head and flapped his wings like a bird and shake his butt like they were tail feathers. He squawked in a humorous manner and stared out at the birds awkwardly, who studied him with a weird expression. Rose turned back to her mother and cocked her head to one side.

"What is he doing?" She asked, a little uncertain about what to expect from the strange human behavior.

"Believe me, honey. You don't really want to know." Jewel rolled her eyes and placed a wing over her eyes to hide her embarrassment. "Blu once told me that this is how Tulio convinced Linda to allow him to come to Brazil in the first place. I guess it isn't that bad… I guess."

Rose nodded her head and tried her best to avoid eye contact with the socially awkward human. She almost pitied him as she went bright red in the face. She could not believe someone like him would even be qualified to receive a P.H.D. in ornithology. He certainly didn't seem to know birds very well or he would not put on such a foolish display. She swallowed a large lump in her throat and eyed Rico with her peripheral vision. If Tulio couldn't understand birds, then what did that mean for him? Would he still be safe?

"Speaking of Dad," Rose lowered her head almost sheepishly, "How did his fight go? Did he beat Marco?"

Jewel nodded, trying hard to forget the events which had led up to this moment.

"Yes," she admitted with a smile. "Marco is dead. Your father saved all of us like the true hero I always believed he could be."

Jewel lowered her head and closed her eyes. She sighed as her heart sank into her chest.

"Unfortunately, the battle was too much for him and he fell into a coma. He is in the treatment room and tomorrow he'll receive some tests on his condition. I think he is okay, he responded to my voice, but he is incredibly tired. I don't think any of us can blame him for that. He just defeated the biggest enemy we have ever gone up against and he saved all of Rio. The New World Order has fallen through his actions."

Rose nodded her head. She could not deny her father's heroism. She sort of admired that about the awkward blue bird. She looked up to him for added strength and advice on certain situations. Her beak passed a smile as she thought about doing something nice to honor his victory.

"Mom, do you think when all of our friends recover and everyone returns to Rio, we can have that party? I mean, can't we hold it in honor of dad and to wish for everlasting peace?"

Jewel thought about the idea for a moment and the more she thought about it, the more she liked the idea. She complied with a swift nod of her head.

"That sounds like an absolutely wonderful idea, honey." She admitted, wrapping her wings around her daughter and pulling her into the warmest hug the two have ever shared. "I am so proud of you. I used to think that you were the best of both of us, but I see now that you're old enough, you have the best qualities from your father. I could not be happier for you."

Rose's eyes narrowed as she turned away for a second. "And here is another idea, mom. Our lives will never be the same. Our enemies have found our home, and that is a weakness for all of us. Perhaps it would be safer to live in the treehouse that dad lived in when he first came back to us… at least until we find a more permanent solution to our problems."

Jewel nodded her head. "I agree, at least for now."

As if on cue, Rafael's eyes fluttered open, and he turned to the two females who stood nearby. He cracked a weakened grin.

"Ola, amigos, did I hear someone mention something about a party?"

All three birds laughed at the toucan's laid back attitude and the touch of humor thrown into the situation. Even while recuperating from his injuries, that didn't stop him from living life to the fullest. There seemed to be an innocence about him which brought out the positive qualities in everyone around him. Maybe, just maybe, that would explain how he befriended a vicious bulldog who would normally hunt down birds and rip their heads off.

"Why did you want to come?" Jewel arched a curious eyebrow, adding a splash of sarcasm to the mix. "I'm sure we could arrange that once you've recovered fully and brought everyone back to our homeland."

Rafael laid back and let out an exasperated sigh. He didn't really need to think about anything. He could tell from the macaw's expression that something wonderful had happened after his defeat at the hands of Marco's mystical powers. He peered at them through his peripheral vision.

"So who was it that defeated that monstrous hawk? Was it you, Rose? Are you our savior?"

Rose shook her head a little sheepishly. She hadn't expected the toucan to single her out. She wasn't strong, or brave, or anything. She did only what she needed to do to protect the creatures she cared for. She thought about it for a moment. There couldn't be anything heroic about that.

"No, dad defeated him." Rose piped in. "He confronted Marco in one huge battle and he saved us all. He is in the other room being treated for his injuries."

"So, Blu's back?" Rafael queried, lying still with a peaceful expression. "Good, I knew if anyone would save us, he would play a major role in it, even if he died. There's something special about him… that is why he's my boy."

Jewel held up a wing and placed in on Rose's shoulder. She nodded her agreement with what Rafael said.

"Your father is a special bird. There would never be an argument on that subject. Do you think we could go check on him together? If he's awake, I'm sure he would enjoy our company."

Rose smiled and spread her wings. "I would be delighted."


#


Blu came alert to the faint medicinal smell of burning incense and herbs. Blu lulled his head and studied his surroundings. He winced for a moment as the stiffness in his neck shot pain through most of his body. He could still feel Marco's talons choking the life out of him. Despite his victory, the remnants of the battle still lingered strongly in his mind. He coughed and wiped a wing across his beak, taking notice of the bloodstains on his cerulean feathers.

"I really did a number on myself this time." He sighed. "But at least I'm alive… though my head is pounding. I could really use some hot chocolate and some cookies at a time like this."

Blu rolled his eyes and moaned, remaining unaware of the two creatures who flew up onto the end of his bed. He would have smiled if he knew of their arrival, but he felt far too groggy and doped up on painkillers to hold any intelligent conversation with anyone other than himself.

"Hey, Dad, how are you feeling?" Rose asked, rushing up to him. She hugged him, wrapping her wings around him. She forgot about his injuries for that moment and realized that he couldn't withstand the pain of her touch at the moment. She lowered him back down onto the counter and just eyed him for a moment. "Oops, I'm so sorry, dad."

"You're forgiven," Blu winced in pain. He shuddered as he felt her let go of him. He eyed the newcomers and tried his best to smile. He wanted neither of them to worry about him. They already held so much to bear with the recovery of the city. They shouldn't have to worry about him. "So can anybody tell me when I became blue? I mean, have I always been blue? Or is that just the bruising and the concussy-ien."

"Uh Dad," Rose grinned, "It is pronounced concussion."

"I know what I said," Blu waved his wing, "But… too bad Jewel's boyfriend died. He seemed like such a good guy. He gave your mom back to me, you know. I plan to keep her for the rest of my life… but that might mean nothing… my life has already ended twice already. Perhaps I should say the rest of Rafael's life. He isn't going anywhere."

"How are you feeling, Pet?" Jewel asked, hoping to her daughter's side. Her eyes filled with concern on his present state. He wobbled unsteadily as he tried to lift himself up to a sitting position.

"I could feel worse," Blu admitted. "Whatever is in these drugs are doing wonders. I guess that is just a small bonus to surviving, eh?" Blu chuckled somewhat to show that he was only kidding. Jewel and Rose peered at each other, unsure of what to think of his joke. Should they laugh? Or should they remain worried about him? Laughing won the small internal struggle and soon all three birds laughed amongst themselves.

"Guess what we're going to do?" Rose smiled. "The minute everyone has returned to the city, and you felt better, all of us kids are going to throw a party in your honor."

"You're going to throw a party?" Blu arched a curious eyebrow. "What for?"

"I can't tell you," Rose admitted. "If I did, it wouldn't be a surprise. I think you'll like it though, since you're going to be the guest of honor."

"Really?" Blu chuckled, ignoring the pain forming in his upper rib cage. "I can't wait."

Rose lowered herself down to her father's side. She smiled and hugged him. She couldn't deny her tears as they rolled down her cheeks. Her beak quivered as she spoke to her dad as if she hadn't seen him in her entire life. She didn't care if her mother heard her; she didn't care about anything. She needed to say this while she looked at him for the first time.

"I'm so glad you're alive, daddy. I've missed you so much."